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Do You Know What Energy Efficiency Ratings Mean for Your HVAC Unit?

If you recently had a chance to shop around for a new HVAC unit, you might have noticed the strange acronyms in the specifications. Additionally, many brands are using these acronyms to assert their supremacy over their competitors. While you might not care what these acronyms spell, let alone what they mean and how they might affect your choice, our experts recommend educating yourself as an energy efficiency rating can make all the difference if you are looking to install a new HVAC unit.

These acronyms might seem intimidating or confusing to an average homeowner. But getting to know how these energy ratings affect your HVAC system’s performance could help you make an informed decision and choose the best unit for your home. It could also mean saving a lot on your energy bill, as not every HVAC unit is fit for every home. In this article, our experts explain the meaning behind these terms and how they affect your HVAC system’s performance.

Energy Efficiency Ratings

When shopping for an HVAC unit or a heat pump, there are several ratings you need to take into account. These ratings are:


Probably the most prominent among these ratings, SEER measures the energy efficiency of your HVAC system during a single season. SEER is measured by dividing the system’s cooling output by electricity usage. The cooling output is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU), while electricity usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). To put in simply, SEER measures the amount of energy required to provide certain cooling levels over the course of a season in real-time.

Therefore, the higher the rating the more energy efficient your HVAC system will be when cooling your home. Even a slightly increased SEER rating could significantly reduce the amount of energy needed to deliver the comfort levels you desire.


Unlike SEER, EER measures power consumption at higher temperatures over a longer period of time to determine the HVAC unit’s long-term operating efficiency. The EER rating is calculated by dividing the cooling output by input energy.

These two ratings are most frequently found on HVAC units and are meant to give you a better insight into the system’s performance. However, even HVAC units with good ratings need to be subjected to annual maintenance to make sure their energy efficiency ratings are constant.


Unlike the previous ratings, HSPF is used to measure the heating efficiency of heat pumps, both unidirectional and bidirectional (heat pumps that can also provide cool air during the summer). The rating is calculated similarly to SEER, by dividing the heating output by energy input. And just like SEER, the higher the rating the more efficient a product is.


When fuel is converted into heating energy, some percent of the energy is lost in the process. AFUE measures the efficiency of a fuel source providing heating energy. The higher this rating, the more heat a unit can produce while minimizing the conversion energy loss. This rating is important as the less fuel you lose to conversion, the more money you save.


Energy star measures the energy efficiency of a product, anything from an HVAC unit to a PC. It was created by the Environmental Protection Agency and is meant to ensure that a product adheres to certain criteria regarding energy consumption. These products are tested in laboratories by an unbiased third-party. Therefore, any product with a blue Energy Star is bound to be an energy-efficient, dependent purchase.

Government Standards

In its efforts to protect the environment, the government has issued the required energy efficiency standards for various products. For HVAC units, the minimum SEER rating was 10 before 2006 but was increased to 13 in 2006 and 14 in 2015. Depending on the state, the minimum EER score is 10.

According to the California Energy Commission, in the state of California in 2016 the minimum required SEER rating is 14, while the EER rating depends on the system’s heating or cooling capacity per hour (BTU/H). For products under 45,000 BTU/H, the minimum EER is 12.2, while for those equal to or over 45,000 BTU/H the minimum is 11.7.

How SEER and EER impact Your Wallet

This is likely the answer many of you were looking for in the first place. Now that you know what each of these ratings means, you realize that a unit’s SEER and EER values directly affect the cost, both long-term and initial. The higher the ratings the more expensive the product will be. But while the initial purchase price might be higher, you are bound to see an improvement in energy efficiency in the form of a lower energy bill.

In the long run, purchasing more expensive equipment with a higher energy rating means saving more on electricity. Over a course of a few years, you are going to see the return on your investment. But in order to keep the system at peak energy efficiency, regular maintenance is required. Action Air Conditioning, Heating and Solar, the leading residential air conditioning company in San Marcos offers routine maintenance and 24/7 emergency services at competitive prices to San Marcos homeowners. Contact us at (800) 400-4152 for any questions or to schedule your HVAC maintenance.

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